In a move that has sparked some controversy, the UK Home Office has plans to implement new rules that impact the spousal visa process for those wanting to enter the UK from outside of the EU. Overall the move is set to make the UK borders more secure and to help cut down on the number of forced marriages. The new rules will place limits that will make the acquisition of a UK marriage visa more difficult to get and more expensive. The UK Home Office is also looking to place significant fines on those who break the rules when acting as guarantors for family visas. All of this is being put into motion by the UK home office in a move to improve immigration screening, examining a greater number of potential immigrants and strengthening border controls.One of the new UK immigration standards will be the necessity of passing an English test before the UK wife visa, UK husband visa, partner or fiancee visa may be granted. If family members from other countries overstay the limits on their family visas, the guarantor may be stuck with a stiff fine of up to £1,000. One of the most significant alterations for spouse visa applications is the raising of the minimum age, from 18 to 21, part of an effort to reduce the number of forced marriages.
The Home Office says it is aware that the rules regarding UK immigration do not exist in a vacuum and has according to Home Office Minister Liam Byrne, arranged for the creation of a new government committee called the Migration Impact Forum (MIF) that will look at the social impact of the spousal visa process.
One of the major issues facing the UK is the stress on social services, NHS, and schools created by the large influx of new immigrants. There are concerns within the immigrant communities as well in terms of how changes in UK immigration regulations affect the overall cohesion of various communities. One of the measures being looked at is the possibility of using an Australian model of a points based system for setting quotas for migration.National security and border control are still key issues as well. Soon, immigrants can expect to see a system of ID cards and IRIS scans that will help assure identity for individuals wanting to come into the UK. Families who wish to bring family members into the UK on relative visas will also be seeing other overhauls to the current system that make the acquisition of family visas and marriage visas more challenging. The Home Office hopes that these new regulations will make it harder for families to pressure young people into marriage unions they themselves do not want. One of the remedies will be the raising of the minimum age from 18 to 21 for applications for spousal visas. The idea is that older individuals are more likely to have completed their education and will be better able to have the maturity and discretion to speak for themselves and defend their rights. The immigration department will also be conducting confidential interviews with potential immigrants to make sure their families are not forcing them into a marriage.
The Home Office expects these new regulations to have a significant effect on immigration, as the current estimate for the number of British citizens who marry foreign nationals from outside the EU is approximately 15,000 persons annually. Since the legal age at which British citizens can marry is 16, the new spousal visa process with its higher minimum age limits should improve the situation for young people.
Controversy has been sparked by the suggested hike in fees for naturalisation and for those seeking leave to remain in the UK. The Joint Council on the Welfare of Immigrants was vocal in their opposition to the fee increases and accused the governments of taking advantage of “vulnerable groups.” However, the government maintains that with the increase in immigration numbers expected in coming years, making the spouse visa application process more rigorous is a necessary step in improving UK immigration and national security.